From the Chair: New Cabinet Position
Secretary for the Seventh Generation yet to come President Bush revealed his 163-page energy plan in mid-May. The glossy package was replete with photos of mountain peaks, forests, and so on. House Democratic Leader, Richard Gephardt, remarked that the plan looked like the Exxon Mobil annual report (Gephardt was reported to have driven to the press conference in a large gas-guzzling SUV). The President maintained that energy production and environmental protection are not contradictory – “they are dual aspects of a single purpose: to live well and wisely upon the earth.”
But I wonder, how far out is President Bush’s vision of living well and wisely? Who counseled him on the long-term effects of his plan?The President has called for heavy increases in burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels. He wants to ease regulatory barriers to building nuclear power plants. Open to oil exploitation will be the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Florida coastline, and the Rocky Mountains.
Certain Native American traditions designate one of their tribal elders to specifically represent “the Seventh Generation yet to come.” When I listen to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary Norton lament how our immediate economy suffers due to lack of fuel supply, I trulywonder if the administration has concern for the folks who will be coming along over the next hundred years. The United States needs a new cabinet position: “Secretary for the 7th Generation yet to come.”
Can’t you envision the picture? – around the big table we always see in photo-ops, alongside the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Housing, etc. sits a bespectacled young college professor from Stanford, hair pulled back in a ponytail – the name plate in front of her: “Seventh Generation.” In the discussions and debates which fire through the room (kind of like in West Wing every Wednesday night) our heroine rattles off statistics about sustainability, quotes from the latest edition of World Watch on the disappearance of our soil base, argues passionately about preserving wilderness, and occasionally slams her fist on the table to let the others know just how important it is to view matters from a long-range perspective.
At her swearing-in ceremony, our new cabinet officer applauds the administration for creating this new position, and thanks her dynamic ninth grade biology teacher for opening up the world of nature to her during a course called “Ecology 101.” Just after she takes the oath of office to “protect and defend” she recites a quote from her favorite writer, longtime environmentalist Joanna Macy:
You live inside us, beings of the future. In the spiral ribbons of our cells, you are here. In our rage for the burning forests, the poisoned fields, the oil-drowned seals, you are here. You beat in our hearts through late-night meetings. You accompany us to clearcuts and toxic dumps and the halls of the lawmakers. It is you who drive our dogged labors to save what is left.
O you who will walk this Earth when we are gone, stir us awake.
Behold through our eyes the beauty of this world. Let us feel your breath in our lungs, your cry in our throat, Let us see you in the poor, the homeless, the sick. Haunt us with your hunger, hound us with your claims, that we may honor the life that links us. You have as yet no faces we can see, no names we can say. But we need only hold you in our mind, and you teach us patience. O you who come after, help us remember:we are your ancestors. Fill us with gladness for the work that must be done.